Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20
WEDNESDAY 13 MARCH 2002
20. If there is a large problem for retention
(up to 50/60 per cent either do not complete teacher training
or do not stay in teaching fore more than two or three years)
what about the problem at the other end? We have got a teaching
population with an aging profile, and certainly anecdotal evidence
suggests that the number who are leaving early, even with loss
of pension, is rising quite dramatically at that end of the scale
(Mr Tomlinson) I believe so. I do not have the exact
figures for that, but we always have known that we have a demographic
profile of teachers which means we are going to lose an awful
lot of them if they all went to retirementwhich, as you
are quite rightly saying, they are not.
21. Some become MPs!
(Mr Tomlinson) An increasingly high proportion become
MPs, I understand, yes. It is interesting that there are just
as many qualified teachers or nearly the same number of qualified
teachers not teaching as there are in fact teaching.
22. That has been so for a long time.
(Mr Tomlinson) It just shows how flexible and so on
they are as a profession and how much they are wanted elsewhere.
23. That goes across a large number of professions
though, does it not?
(Mr Tomlinson) Of course it does.
24. The number of people who qualify and never
practise is of great concern.
(Mr Tomlinson) Yes.
25. So the 1999-2000 report highlighted the
concerns about teacher recruitment and retention. Moving on a
year to this report, the concerns are still there about recruitment
and retention at the younger end.
(Mr Tomlinson) Yes.
26. And concerns have emerged about the older
end leaving early and not going through to retirement.
(Mr Tomlinson) Yes. I think, if I am correctand
I would certainly want, if I am not correct, to give you the accurate
figuresif you look at the age profile of teachers, the
dip in terms of the smallest number we have is between the ages
of 26 and 31something like that. If that is correct, then,
of course, longer term we do have a significant challenge awaiting
27. Do you get the impression that, as a result
of your research and your reports, the Government is taking those
and acting on those?
(Mr Tomlinson) I believe it is. I believe it has attempted
to put in place a number of initiatives to improve recruitment
of teachers and, indeed, to help with retention. There are further
steps under way in relation to the workload study and the attempt
to tackle that but of course some of the problems are about the
fact that teachers cannot always afford housing in areas and therefore
have to make some very difficult decisions about that. So there
are a whole set of other factors which are not within the control
of government to influence. One of the factors to which I have
drawn attention many times over the last 12-15 months, is that
we really do have to do something to make clear to teachers how
much we value what they do and what many do in very difficult
and challenging circumstances. We all have a desire to feel valued,
whatever role we occupy in society, and I think it is important
to make that clear to teachers. That is not to be complacent,
that is not to be sentimental about it, but the fact is we do
have an awful lot of dedicated teachers who actually do not feel
the public at large values them in the way that they should.
28. If I may briefly touch upon teacher training,
in particular the Graduate Teacher Programme. In your report you
make the point that, although most of the trainees selected are
of good quality, the teaching standards they have achieved by
the end of their course are not as high as might have been expected.
You go on to say, ". . . a substantially higher proportion
than is usually the case were assessed as adequate, not good"
and make the point that, broadly speaking, in more than half of
those assessed you found significant weaknesses. You imply in
the report that because it is school based there is a bit of variation
there with regards to the way this initiative is applied. How
can we tighten this up? Because it is an important initiative.
(Mr Tomlinson) I am going to try to get David Taylor
to come in here.
(Mr Taylor) I do not think we have implied that it
is because it is school based. So I knock that one on the head.
It is direct employment based rather than a combination of school
based and other provision, which, in the case of school centred
initial teacher training is also often done in schools but in
the case of higher education/institution based partnerships is
often done off site. Those distinctions are still around within
the Graduate Teacher Programme, so that some of the training which
some of those trainees receive can be off site in higher education.
This is not, therefore, a point essentially about where people
are being trained or whether it is located in schools or elsewhere;
it is very much a question about whether the kinds of infrastructure
which have now been developed through the long-established HEI
school partnerships or through the newer schemes are being replicated
sufficiently where the lines of accountability have been less
clear and where the processes of induction into the programme
and monitoring through the programme have been less systematically
carried out. We have been quite critical of those features of
the programme because it is plain to us that, if you take somebody
direct into employment, they will have a number of specific training
needs which need to be identified quickly and then followed up
systematically. If that does not happen, then the progress made
will be manifestly less good than it ought to be. That has happened
too often. We have made the point to the Teacher Training Agency.
We have made it clear to them and to the Government that this
is not to knock the scheme. It is a scheme that we believe has
tremendous potential and we want to make sure it works properly
and does not go off half-cocked, leaving people at the end of
the process not able to demonstrate the standards comparable to
those which are being achieved by conventional trainees. If at
the end of that process, having taken such good, well-motivated
people into the profession as graduates, we cannot turn out really
good teacherswhich, after all, is the aim of all teacher
trainingthen the process will not have been as good as
it should have been. The Teacher Training Agency is now working
on the second stage of this programme to try to address some of
those weaknesses. I think it does mean that a stronger structure
is needed to ensure that the quality assurance of that programme
is at least equivalent to that which is in place for the rest
of teacher training.
29. What you are saying is the initiative is
being too loosely applied. We need stronger structures, we need
better lines of accountability, to make sure there is an evenness
of standards applying.
(Mr Taylor) An admirable summary. Thank you.
30. Can I move on, if I may, to the business
about pupil behaviour which you identified in the report as being
one of the major concerns or factors, if you like, with regard
to teacher retention being so poor. An amazing statistic: 80 per
cent of children stopped in shopping centres during school time
by police or welfare services are accompanied by adults. This
issue of authorised but inappropriate absences from schools, how
can we correct it? It is getting the teaching profession as a
whole and working with them at heightening people's consciences.
How do we improve this?
(Mr Tomlinson) Where schools have been successful
in tackling this, they have done it by sitting down with parents
and showing them by example the impact of this sporadic absence
upon the achievement of children. In other words, being able to
say, "Look, your son or daughter knew this person who left
last year. They had a similar attendance pattern to yours and
their performance at the end of the year was. . . This is what
is happening. You may not think that the one day is significant
but, if that one day is repeated over a long period of time, cumulatively
it will have the impact of lowering the potential achievement
of your son or your daughter and the consequences of that are
in terms of their life chances" and so on. The schools that
do this find that the parents are then much more engaged with
the issue, much more engaged with the importance of what is happening,
and are much more likelynot for sure, but much more likelyto
take what we would, I think, all regard as the right action in
future. There are overall four million days per year lost through
what is described as authorised absence.
31. I thought you said six million.
(Mr Tomlinson) Four million. One million days lost
through unauthorised absence.
32. Are you sure you did not say six million
(Mr Tomlinson) I will go back and check, Chairman,
and correct it if I am wrong.
33. Many schools now, particularly in the secondary
sector are adopting home/school contracts to try to counter this
problem about technically authorised absences by the parents or
by adults. Do you have any evidence to show that where home/school
contracts are signed between parents and the school they are actually
having a success rate?
(Mr Tomlinson) I do not, no. We do have evidence that
other systems that schools and parents together have put in placefor
example, some schools have an immediate telephone bleeper system
with parents of children who have this pattern of poor attendance,
so that almost within five minutes of school opening the parents
get a bleeper saying: "He is not here again"seem
to be working as well, in order to work with the parents. The
answer is working with the parents. You are not going to achieve
anything by working against them. You have got to work with them,
you have got to talk through the issues with them, you have got
to seek to get their support for what you want to do. Different
schools have adopted different approachesand I think quite
rightly so: they are the best judges of how their parents would
respond to approach (a) as distinct from approach (b), and I think
they have to be left to make that professional decision with their
34. Mr Tomlinson, can I come back to teacher
training, and perhaps David Taylor may want to come in on this.
Can you dispel perhaps what may be a prejudice on my part? When
I go round schools and I talk to people in the education sector,
one of the common criticisms is that the teacher training institution
is a bit of a soggy institution and that the quality of teacher
training in this country still is not what it should be. One of
the explanations why is that young people coming into teaching
are not adequately prepared for the teaching job by the teacher
training experience. Are you just being a little bit too comfortable
with the Government and wanting to be popular with the Government
by not coming out much more strongly and criticising the quality
of teacher training in this country?
(Mr Tomlinson) I think we can both say something there.
(Mr Taylor) Do you want to start?
(Mr Tomlinson) No, you go first.
(Mr Taylor) No, we are not. We have had a tradition
of knocking some very well-established, high-prestige teacher
training courses for six, and "they did not like it up them"
as the famous saying goes. The Universities of Warwick and Durham
are two such and they have not forgiven us since for giving them
very critical reports for the weakness of their training. We took
the line that even to have one trainee coming out of the course
who was not ready for the profession and allowing that person
to go in without making it clear that that was the case, was not
satisfactory. Therefore we failed a number of, as I say, very
high-prestige courses and we continue to do so if the standards
are not up to scratch. We believe that partly as a result of that
and actually the very rigorous standards set up by the Government
with the Teacher Training Agency, it has led to substantial improvements
in teacher training. Initial teacher training now is normally
of good quality and it is quite unusual to find weaknesses of
a radical kind. The standards expected have been ratcheted up
quite considerably in basic skills, in information technology,
in class management. We can see the evidence of this partly from
the fact that when we evaluate the average teaching standard in
the first year of teaching by newly qualified teachers, it is
very little worse than the average for the profession as a whole
and in many cases is actually better. This does not suggest to
me a flaccid and soggy system and, certainly, if it were like
that, we would be saying so loud and clear without fear or favour.
35. Do you do a customer satisfaction evaluation
at the end of teacher training? These students, when they have
completed, are they asked, "How good was it?"
(Mr Taylor) They do, yes. In some of our reports we
actually included questionnaire analysis of our own which showed
very high levels of satisfaction with the training. There were
particular features which they pinpointed, especially in primary,
relating to the teaching of literacy and numeracy. From five years
ago those areas have been addressed very systematically and now
most trainees are very well satisfied with that. So actually it
is really quite unusual to find teacher trainees who are less
than satisfied with the quality of their preparation.
(Mr Tomlinson) I would just add a couple of points.
First of all, remember that for most students that teacher training
period is 36 weeks. It can all be in schools or it can be a mixture,
but for a minimum of 24 weeks in school. That is a relatively
small period of time to try to get an awful lot of training and
information through. I think the question that remains still on
the table is could we not. . . Or let me put it another way: Should
we not look at the one-year PGCE and the induction year as a combined
two-year experience that prepares teachers for teaching? I say
that because the location of institutions of higher education
can sometimes mean that students do not gain experience in the
sort of schools in which they often get their first appointment
and those can be markedly different in their demand, their nature
and their character. I have met students recently who believed
they had a very good initial teacher training and fared very well
in their partner school or school but had got a job in an inner
city school and none of their training and experience had been
in an inner city school, We must recognise those are very challenging
positions in which to be placedas an experienced teacher,
never mind as a newly qualified. I think the push I would make
is to look at the post-graduate certificate year where it operates
and the induction year much more as a whole and think afresh about
how we approach that.
Chairman: Let us move seamlessly to teacher
workload. Mark has a question on this subject.
36. The main problem with regard to teacher
retention is the enormous workload that they have. Past reports
have suggested that you should look at ways of reducing that burden.
I wonder if you could explain how successful the policies that
you have put in place, in your view, have been, and what you have
not done to date that you will do in future that will further
reduce the burden.
(Mr Tomlinson) This is the workload, I presume, that
is said to be associated with inspection.
(Mr Tomlinson) That, of course, is for most schools
a workload that comes once every four years or more and, in proportion
to what else is generated, I think is relatively small. But, having
said that, it is important that we seek to reduce it as much as
possible. We have revised our forms that we ask schools to complete
in advance and the revision has been to reduce the information
we ask of them. We will much later this term, and certainly from
the summer onwards, be pre-completing one of the forms with the
data we hold, so that they do not have to fill it in they just
have to check that the data is up to date. All the head teachers
I have talked to believe that is a good move and will reduce the
initial demands upon them. We have been very explicit about the
documentation which the school is expected to hand over to the
lead inspector. I think, as the Committee know, I have issued
letterscertainly one last year to head teachersstating
quite clearly that I did not want teachers to be asked to revise
their schemes of work, to revise and redraft policies, nor to
be asked to enter into some perceived lesson planning that OFSTED
was thought to want. We have no requirements about that; it is
what the school does and has that we want to see. We will be going
further in the summer, in that the forms that we do ask for will
be on disk that can be completed and transmitted to us electronically
or transmitted to the inspection team electronically, and that,
again, should ease the burden. My consultations with head teachers
and the like is that in general terms they feel we have made a
good number of efforts successfully to reduce the burden on them
prior to inspection. I think we will continue to strive to reduce
it further, but I do think we have a reasonably good record.
38. Are you saying that there is very little
you think can be further done to reduce bureaucratic implementations
of the OFSTED inspection process on the schools? Because that
is certainly not the view in, certainly, my constituencyand
Mr Pollard gave an example earlier from hisof the teachers
on the ground who have to undergo the OFSTED inspection process.
(Mr Tomlinson) All I can say is we have made efforts,
I think effective efforts, to reduce it. I do not believe we are
ever at the end of that process. I am quite firmly of the view
that there is nothing that we do that we cannot do better and
therefore we will continue to talk with head teachers, teacher
associations and the like about how we might further reduce the
burden. What we cannot easily control is how much the schools
themselves feel they ought to do in order to present themselves
in the best possible light at the time of the inspection.
(Miss Passmore) I think there are demands made of
head teachers that are different from the demands made of heads
of departments or coordinators in primary schools and demands
on teachers. We do not ask teachers to do anything different from
what they would normally do in their lessons. There is no extra
preparation whatsoever asked for. For the heads of departments
and coordinators, we do ask to meet with them, and therefore they
may want to think about things and review things in advance. The
forms that have to be completed are completed by the head teacher.
But we do know that the way that some schools manage an inspectionand
this is very often the head teachers asking things of the staffdoes
increase what the school would do in that time. It is quite natural,
I would have thought, that at any time you are going to be looked
atlike appearing here todayyou do a little extra
preparation, but you do not go over the top. We do not want schools
to go over the top and we do not want head teachers to ask their
staff to do things that really are quite unnecessary.
39. I do try to crack the whip at this Committee!
(Miss Passmore) I was thinking of us.